A Simple Guide to Fresh Fruit at Home

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On top of providing indefinite access to fresh produce, fruit trees filter pollutants, recharge groundwater, and create healthy soil.
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“The Home Orchard Handbook: A Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit Trees Anywhere” by Cem Akin and Leah Rottke

There’s no end to the benefits of planting fruit around your house: you have unlimited access to a fresh supply of produce; a bountiful landscape in your own yard and neighborhood; and an ecosystem ready for pollinating bees and delightful songbirds to visit. The Home Orchard Handbook (Quarry Books, 2011) by Cem Akin and Leah Rottke can be your guide to creating this lovely backdrop. Whether it’s choosing a site for your plants in your climate or planting techniques and keeping your trees fruitful, these authors know how it’s done. In simple and understandable terms, from sapling to storage to fresh recipes, Akin and Rottke will walk you through how to plant, tend, and harvest the apples, lemons, peaches, or whatever else you can gather without ever leaving your yard.

Fruit Tree 101

Imagine providing essential nutrition and oxygen by the tons to humans and animals; cleansing the air, water, and soil; creating vibrant ecosystems for birds and bees; empowering individuals to become healthy stewards of their environment; and inspiring them to spread that message — addressing world hunger, global warming, and deforestation, all at once.

One might speculate the need forentire armies of environmentalists, health crusaders,and animal welfare activists to accomplishthis. Yet, there is a singular strategy thatcan kick-start the heart of this process all on itsown — a global catalyst for a healthy planet, ifwe all act together, perfectly utilizing physics,chemistry, and the symbiotic means offered byMother Nature to nourish the world and all itsinhabitants. Best of all, it is a simple, grounding,long-lasting, Earth-connecting strategy that ispart of a most enjoyable journey and rewardingdestination: Plant a fruit tree, care for it, encourageeveryone you know to do the same, andpass on the legacy.

Simply put, trees heal the planet, from filtering air pollutants to recharging groundwater to creating healthy microcosms in the soil. And it doesn’t stop there. If that tree is a fruit tree, harvest abounds for decades, sometimes centuries, improving health for generations. Excess harvests may be donated to local food banks or given to neighbors, promoting sustainability by displacing many environmental hazards associated with the mass commercial production, transportation, and packaging of most food sold in today’s markets.

At the table, science shows that eating more fruits cuts the risk of major diseases. In the backyard, home orchards serve as a place to forge deep connections with family, friends, and nature. In the community, planting and maintaining fruit trees can be a truly holistic, tangible solution to many of the world’s critical problems.

Fruit trees play an important role in the history of Earth. Many wild varieties have been around for millions of years in various forms. Fossilized remnants from the olive’s ancestor date back 20 million years. Early incarnations of the plant that has become the modern-day Rosaceae family, which includes apples, pears, quinces, almonds, cherries, plums, and apricots, were present 40 to 50 million years ago.

And perhaps the most fruitful symbiotic relationship ever between plant and animal goes back 80 million years, when fig wasps became the exclusive pollinators of fig trees — a relationship that exists to this day. Experts estimate that the earliest human domestication of fruit trees, especially olives, dates, and figs, occurred in the late Stone Age through the early Bronze Age (as early as about 9000 B.C.E. for figs).

Some trees, such as olives, can survive for more than a thousand years, making them living artifacts. Others, like apples and pears, can produce fruit for centuries. It has even been suggested that the longevity of domesticated fruit trees provides such a strong connection to the land that this bond contributed to the development of modern city-states and nations. Imagine, humankind being inspired to develop sophisticated social structures based partly on a desire to be close to their beloved orchards!

Indeed, a certain indescribable magic surrounds fruit trees, as flowers metamorphose into nature’s perfect foods, enchanting children and adults alike. The tree combines all the most amazing botanical processes to create a fruit so tasty that it can entice an animal to eat it and distribute the seed. What a concept!

To help share that magic and wonder, the basics of growing fruit trees in a home orchard are covered in this book, including site and plant selection, planting techniques, and aftercare. These principles are applicable to nut trees as well. All instructions promote organic, humane methods, resulting in the most sustainable Earth- and animal-friendly orchards possible that set the highest standard for others to emulate.

Imagine a place where you can have a summer picnic under the shade of a fruit tree, breathe the clean air it generates, watch the beautiful birds and other wildlife foraging in its canopy, and bring only an appetite for the healthy fruits growing overhead. Now imagine that place being in your own yard.

More from The Home Orchard Handbook:

How to Prune and Weed Your Home Orchard

Reprinted with permission from The Home Orchard Handbook: A Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit Trees Anywhereby Cem Akin and Leah Rottke, published by Quarry Books, a member of Quayside Publishing Group, 2011.